Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for August 22nd, 2007

Interesting points on information

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From lifehack.org. I think the following are worth pondering to see whether they’re worth heeding.

Here are eight tips:

1. Minimize your news consumption

News is probably the most noisy kind of information you could get. The reason is simple: 99% of what you read in the news today would not make it to the history 100 years from now. That implies that 99% of what you read in the news is actually not that important. There are simply too many details than you need. Reading the headlines is more than enough in most situations.

2. Read history in place of news

Rather than reading news, I believe it’s a good idea to read another kind of information which has much less noise: history. History has filtered 99% or more of the unimportant details to give you only the important. Furthermore, history also allows you to see the contexts of the events that happened.

Why is it important? Because contexts allows you to find patterns which in turn give you invaluable lessons of what to do and what not to do. Why should you repeat the same mistakes made by others throughout the history if you can just avoid it in the first place? News, on the other hand, gives you just details without contexts. You may read hundreds of pages of news without ever capturing the big picture.

3. Unsubscribe the feeds and magazines that are not essential

To find your information oasis, it’s important to reduce your information intake. Besides minimizing your news consumption, you should also unsubscribe the feeds and magazines that are not essential. Check your magazine and feed subscriptions, and assess the value you get from each. Is it really worth your time? Does it help you do the important? Or maybe it actually distract you away from the important?

4. Read quotations from the great thinkers

I love quotations because they are the kind of information that has the highest density of wisdom. In the same amount of time, you can get much more insights by reading quotations than by reading other kinds of information. Just go to quotation sites like ThinkExist or BrainyQuote [sic – LG], browse the quotes by topics or authors, and internalize what you read there. This is among the purest kinds of information you could get.

5. For each reading, read no more than what is necessary

It is an important key to effective reading. Why should you let all the noise get into your mind if you can just get the gems? So whenever you read something, just read what is necessary and no more. That’s why it’s important to have a clear purpose before you read, especially for readings which require longer time commitments like books. Clear purpose helps you distinguish the necessary from the rest.

6. While reading, focus on getting actionable ideas

Another key to effective reading is focusing on getting actionable ideas. Actionable ideas are ideas you can act upon to improve your life. If it’s not actionable, the information might just take up space in your memory without doing anything useful for you. In other words, it might actually be noise.

7. Check your email no more than twice per day

Email is one of the main sources of information noise in the Internet Age. If you check your inbox again and again during your day, not only it introduces a lot of noise into your brain, it also distracts you from actually doing the important. It’s better if you allocate certain periods of time (at most two) during the day to deal with it so that the noise is isolated and the distractions are minimized.

8. Ruthlessly stop consuming information whenever the value you get is no longer worth it

Whenever you consume information, don’t forget that diminishing returns applies. Over time, the value you get from consuming the information is decreasing. Eventually it will reach a point where you can get more value by doing other activities than by consuming the information. To minimize noise, you should ruthlessly stop at this point. More than that and you are introducing noise into your life.

Donald Latumahina is an avid learner who blogs about personal growth and effectiveness at Life Optimizer. Read his articles on 33 Tips to Become a Well Liked Person, How to Develop Your Ideas Exponentially, and 30 Ways to Increase Your Mental Capacity.

Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2007 at 7:05 pm

Posted in Daily life

Back-to-school special: Wiki for notetaking

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Students, listen up. You can create a Wiki for collaborative notetaking. Lifehack.org explains how:

It’s back to school time, and it’s time to make good on the promises you made yourself last year to be more organized this time around! One of the stumbling blocks I see most often in my students is taking — and keeping — good notes for their classes. Ideally, you’d like to have notes on all your reading, as well as notes from lectures, and you’d like to have both available when you need the to study for an exam or write a paper.

Enter the wiki. While wikis are generally seen as part of the trendy “Web 2.0″ phenomenon, they are actually one of the older technologies on the Web. Named after a Hawaiian phrase meaning “quick”, wikis are easily-edited, automatically interlinked sets of documents. Pages can be created and edited on the fly, and most track changes and additions, allowing for effective collaboration between multiple writers.

Wikis have been especially popular with students, and a number of specialized wikis have been developed specifically with students’ needs in mind, including NoteMesh, stud.icio.us, and PBwiki. Wikis are a great way to keep, organize, and instantly access class notes and other school-related information. Wikis offer students:

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Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2007 at 6:20 pm

And, via her blog, this wonderful kid

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Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2007 at 6:09 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Good item description on eBay auction

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Here it is:

I’m selling a bunch of Pokemon cards. Why? Because my kids sneaked them into my shopping cart while at the grocery store and I ended up buying them because I didn’t notice they were there until we got home. How could I have possibly not noticed they were in my cart, you ask? Let me explain.

You haven’t lived until you’ve gone grocery shopping with six kids in tow. I would rather swim, covered in bait, through the English Channel, be a contestant on Fear Factor when they’re having pig brains for lunch, or do fourth grade math than to take my six kids to the grocery store. Because I absolutely detest grocery shopping, I tend to put it off as long as possible. There comes a time, however, when you’re peering into your fridge and thinking, ‘Hmmm, what can I make with ketchup, Italian dressing, and half an onion,’ that you decide you cannot avoid going to the grocery store any longer. Before beginning this most treacherous mission, I gather all the kids together and give them “The Lecture“.

“The Lecture“ goes like this…

MOM: “We have to go to the grocery store.”

KIDS: “Whine whine whine whine whine.“

MOM: “Hey, I don’t want to go either, but it’s either that or we’re eating cream of onion-ketchup soup and drinking Italian dressing for dinner tonight.”

KIDS: “Whine whine whine whine whine.“

MOM: “Now here are the rules: do not ask me for anything, do not poke the packages of meat in the butcher section, do not test the laws of physics and try to take out the bottom can in the pyramid shaped display, do not play baseball with oranges in the produce section, and most importantly, do not try to leave your brother at the store. Again.”

OK, the kids have been briefed. Time to go.

Once at the store, we grab not one, but two shopping carts. I wear the baby in a sling and the two little children sit in the carts while I push one cart and my oldest son pushes the other one. My oldest daughter is not allowed to push a cart. Ever. Why? Because the last time I let her push the cart, she smashed into my ankles so many times, my feet had to be amputated by the end of our shopping trip. This is not a good thing. You try running after a toddler with no feet sometime.

At this point, a woman looks at our two carts and asks me, “Are they all yours?” I answer good naturedly, “Yep!

“Oh my, you have your hands full.”

“Yes, I do, but it‘s fun!” I say smiling. I’ve heard all this before. In fact, I hear it every time I go anywhere with my brood.

We begin in the produce section where all these wonderfully, artistically arranged pyramids of fruit stand. There is something so irresistibly appealing about the apple on the bottom of the pile, that a child cannot help but try to touch it. Much like a bug to a zapper, the child is drawn to this piece of fruit. I turn around to the sounds of apples cascading down the display and onto the floor. Like Indiana Jones, there stands my son holding the all-consuming treasure that he just HAD to get and gazing at me with this dumbfounded look as if to say, “Did you see that??? Wow! I never thought that would happen!”

I give the offending child an exasperated sigh and say, “Didn’t I tell you, before we left, that I didn’t want you taking stuff from the bottom of the pile???”

“No. You said that you didn’t want us to take a can from the bottom of the pile. You didn’t say anything about apples.”

With superhuman effort, I resist the urge to send my child to the moon and instead focus on the positive – my child actually listened to me and remembered what I said!!! I make a mental note to be a little more specific the next time I give the kids The Grocery Store Lecture.

A little old man looks at all of us and says, “Are all of those your kids?”

Thinking about the apple incident, I reply, “Nope. They just started following me. I’ve never seen them before in my life.”

OK, now onto the bakery section where everything smells so good, I’m tempted to fill my cart with cookies and call it a day. Being on a perpetual diet, I try to hurry past the assortment of pies, cakes, breads, and pastries that have my children drooling. At this point the chorus of “Can we gets” begins.

“Can we get donuts?”

“No.”

“Can we get cupcakes?”

“No.”

“Can we get muffins?”

“No.”

“Can we get pie?”

“No.”

You’d think they’d catch on by this point, but no, they’re just getting started.

In the bakery, they’re giving away free samples of coffee cake and of course, my kids all take one. The toddler decides he doesn’t like it and proceeds to spit it out in my hand. (That’s what moms do. We put our hands in front of our children’s mouths so they can spit stuff into them. We’d rather carry around a handful of chewed up coffee cake, than to have the child spit it out onto the floor. I’m not sure why this is, but ask any mom and she’ll tell you the same.) Of course, there’s no garbage can around, so I continue shopping one-handed while searching for someplace to dispose of the regurgitated mess in my hand.

In the meat department, a mother with one small baby asks me, “Wow! Are all six yours?”

I answer her, “Yes, but I’m thinking of selling a couple of them.”

(Still searching for a garbage can at this point.)

Ok, after the meat department, my kids’ attention spans are spent. They’re done shopping at this point, but we aren’t even halfway through the store. This is about the time they like to start having shopping cart races. And who may I thank for teaching them this fun pastime? My seventh “child”, also known as my husband. While I’m picking out loaves of bread, the kids are running down the aisle behind the carts in an effort to get us kicked out of the store. I put to stop to that just as my son is about to crash head on into a giant cardboard cut-out of a Keebler elf stacked with packages of cookies.

Ah! Yes! I find a small trash can by the coffee machine in the cereal aisle and finally dump out the squishy contents of my hand. After standing in the cereal aisle for an hour and a half while the kids perused the various cereals, comparing the marshmallow and cheap, plastic toy content of each box, I broke down and let them each pick out a box. At any given time, we have twenty open boxes of cereal in my house.

As this is going on, my toddler is playing Houdini and maneuvering his little body out of the seat belt in an attempt to stand up in the cart. I’m amazed the kid made it to his second birthday without suffering a brain damaging head injury. In between trying to flip himself out of the cart, he sucks on the metal bars of the shopping cart. Mmmm, can you say “influenza”?

The shopping trip continues much like this. I break up fights between the kids now and then and stoop down to pick up items that the toddler has flung out of the cart. I desperately try to get everything on my list without adding too many other goodies to the carts.

Somehow I manage to complete my shopping in under four hours and head for the check-outs where my kids start in on a chorus of, “Can we have candy?” What evil minded person decided it would be a good idea to put a display of candy in the check-out lanes, right at a child’s eye level? Obviously someone who has never been shopping with children.

As I unload the carts, I notice many extra items that my kids have sneaked in the carts unbeknownst to me. I remove a box of Twinkies, a package of cupcakes, a bag of candy, and a can of cat food (we don’t even have a cat!). I somehow missed the box of Pokemon cards however and ended up purchasing them unbeknownst to me. As I pay for my purchases, the clerk looks at me, indicates my kids, and asks, “Are they all yours?”

Frustrated, exhausted from my trip, sick to my stomach from writing out a check for $289.53, dreading unloading all the groceries and putting them away and tired of hearing that question, I look at the clerk and answer her in my most sarcastic voice, “No. They’re not mine. I just go around the neighborhood gathering up kids to take to the grocery store because it’s so much more fun that way.”

So, up for auction is an opened (they ripped open the box on the way home from the store) package of Pokemon cards. There are 44 cards total. They’re in perfect condition, as I took them away from the kiddos as soon as we got home from the store. Many of them say “Energy”. I tried carrying them around with me, but they didn’t work. I definitely didn’t have any more energy than usual. One of them is shiny. There are a few creature-like things on many of them. One is called Pupitar. Hee hee hee Pupitar! (Oh no! My kids’ sense of humor is rubbing off on me!) Anyway, I don’t there’s anything special about any of these cards, but I’m very much not an authority on Pokemon cards. I just know that I’m not letting my kids keep these as a reward for their sneakiness.

Shipping is FREE on this item. Insurance is optional, but once I drop the package at the post office, it is no longer my responsibility. For example, if my son decides to pour a bottle of glue into the envelope, or my daughter spills a glass of juice on the package, that’s my responsibility and I will fully refund your money. If, however, I take the envelope to the post office and a disgruntled mail carrier sets fire to it, a pack of wild dogs rip into it, or a mail sorting machine shreds it, it’s out of my hands, so you may want to add insurance. I will leave feedback for you as soon as I’ve received your payment. I will be happy to combine shipping on multiple items won within three days. This comes from a smoke-free, pet-free, child-filled home. Please ask me any questions before placing your bid. Happy bidding! 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2007 at 5:59 pm

Posted in Daily life

New Skype for Windows

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Download your (free) update of (or install for the first time) Skype for Windows:

Official release. Version: 3.5.0.214.
Release date: August 17, 2007.
File name: SkypeSetup.exe
File size: 23 MB

Features

  • Free Skype-to-Skype calls to people anywhere in the world.
  • Call phones and mobiles at pretty cheap rates per minute.
  • Instant message when it’s not a good time to talk.
  • See who you’re talking to with free video calls.
  • Forward your calls and get text messages when you’re not online.
  • Search the web with the Google Toolbar (optional install).

System requirements

  • PC running Windows 2000 or XP. (Windows 2000 users require DirectX 9.0 for video calls).
  • Internet connection (broadband is best, GPRS is not supported for voice calls, and results may vary on a satellite connection).
  • Speakers and microphone – built-in or separate.
  • To make video calls you’ll need a computer with at least a 1GHz processor, 256 MB RAM and of course a webcam.
  • We also recommend that you have at least a 800 MHz processor, 256 MB RAM and 50 MB free disk space on your hard drive.

Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2007 at 5:25 pm

Posted in Daily life, Software

Congressional investigations

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Glenn Greenwald today:

In discussing Congress’ low approval ratings yesterday, I noted that Bush followers and media pundits simply invent facts about these ratings that are plainly false. In particular, they repeatedly claim that Congress’ low approval ratings are due to its excessive investigations of the administration — which, they never tire of telling us, Americans do not like — as well as Congress’ failure to co-operate with the President in a bi-partisan way. That is a pure expression of conventional Beltway wisdom.

On cue, former Bush official Peter Wehner, writing on the Commentary blog, asserted that these negative Congressional polling numbers reveal that “Democrats are paying a high price for their hyper-partisanship. They appear angry, zealous, and vengeful, far more interested in investigations than legislation.” Right-wing blogger McQ cited as one reason for the unpopularity that Democrats “spent all their time investigating marginal, and to most Americans, unimportant things while accomplishing nothing of importance.”

Glenn Reynolds linked to this post conclusorily mocking my analysis of Congress’ unpopularity by suggesting that Congress has investigated far more than most Americans want. And Reynolds himself then added: “YEAH, THAT’S THE TICKET: Why’s Congress polling so badly? Because they haven’t launched enough investigations. Uh huh.”

All of these “analysts,” making the same point (one heard frequently on television), have one thing in common: namely, not one of them cited a single piece of evidence, poll, or anything else to support their claim that Americans dislike investigations and/or that Congress is unpouplar due to too many hearings or too much obstructionism. Instead, they just literally make that up and then say it without having any idea if it’s true.

Many people who assert that Americans dislike investigations of the President are just slothful; they sit around hearing television and newspaper pundits repeat this cliche — which they do endlessly — and then uncritically absorb and repeat it. For others, it is just a matter of extreme self-absorption; they reflexively assume that their own opinions are always the same as what “Americans believe.” Thus, because they themselves don’t like Congressional investigations of their Leader or think that the specific scandals are insignificant, they just assume, and then assert, that most Americans share this view.

But the overriding attribute evident here is a willingness to believe things about the world based not on evidence or reality but on what they want the world to be. They don’t want George Bush investigated, and thus, they simply want to believe that Americans dislike investigations (exactly the same way they wanted to believe things were going well in Iraq, so they were, and reports to the contrary about “violence” and “civil war” were media fabrications).

Thus, they didactically assert, over and over, that Congress is in trouble for investigating Bush too much even though that claim is overwhelmingly contradicted by the actual evidence:

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Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2007 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Congress

Reducing stress, increasing contentment

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Good post in Zen Habits. It begins:

This fantastic quote summarizes something that I’ve been trying to focus on recently in my daily life:

“Whatever the tasks, do them slowly
with ease,
in mindfulness,
so not do any tasks with the goal
of getting them over with.
Resolve to each job in a relaxed way,
with all your attention.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Master

In our daily lives, we often rush through tasks, trying to get them done, trying to finish as much as we can each day, speeding along in our cars to our next destination, rushing to do what we need to do there, and then leaving so that we can speed to our next destination.

Unfortunately, it’s often not until we get to our final destination that we realize what madness this all is.

At the end of the day, we’re often exhausted and stressed out from the grind and the chaos and the busy-ness of the day. We don’t have time for what’s important to us, for what we really want to be doing, for spending time with loved ones, for doing things we’re passionate about.

And yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible to live a simpler life, one where you enjoy each activity, where you are present in everything (or most things) you do, where you are content rather than rushing to finish things.

If that appeals to you, let’s take a look at some suggestions for living a simple, peaceful, content life:

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2007 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Daily life

Surprise find: local shaving supplies

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We visited today a drugstore I had sort of ignored in Carmel. To my surprise, lots of shaving supplies: Tabac, Royal Copenhagen, the complete Royall line, St. John’s bay rum, Merkur razors, G.B. Kent BK4s, and so on. I’ll be going back for a more careful look.

Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2007 at 3:28 pm

Posted in Shaving

More Miss Molly

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Miss Molly resting More Miss Molly

Molly tends to move unless asleep, and even then there’s a certain amount of squirming. So getting photos is not easy, but here are a couple from today. She’s acclimated and settled in and stays busy when awake.

Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2007 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Cats, Molly

To Carmel for the day

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The Younger Daughter and I are off to Carmel for the day, walking around and doing the tourist thing, including lunch at my favorite restaurant there, Tutto Mondo. More blogging later, you can be sure.

Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2007 at 11:22 am

Posted in Daily life

The GOP isn’t even competent at argument

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The Anonymous Liberal has this update to a post today. [Amused Cynic points out in the comments that Bobbitt served in the Clinton Administration, so perhaps he’s not a Republican. OTOH, he has also served in Republican administrations—Wikipedia: “Bobbitt has also served extensively in government, for both Democratic and Republican administrations. In the 1970s, he worked with Lloyd Cutler on the charter of the Central Intelligence Agency (Austin Chronicle, June 21, 2002). He has worked in the White House as associate counsel to the president, the Senate, the State Department, and the National Security Council, where Bobbitt served as the director for Intelligence, senior director for Critical Infrastructure, and senior director for Strategic Planning.” So his party is unclear. I fear I simply assumed GOP from the poor quality of the argument. – LG]

This op-ed in the New York Times today is infuriating. The author, former National Security Council member Philip Bobbitt, devotes the entire op-ed to criticizing the critics of the new FISA legislation, accusing them of playing politics. Though he doesn’t devote a single sentence to discussing the actual language of the bill or the substantive concerns critics have raised, he blasts “those people who don’t bother giving reasons, don’t explain or give arguments, who prefer to traduce the people with whom they disagree by attacks on their characters, which are presumed to be insufficiently stalwart.”

Here’s how Bobbitt begins his op-ed:

Congress just passed, and President Bush hurriedly signed, a law that amends the legal framework for the electronic interception of various kinds of communication with foreign sources. Almost immediately, commentators concluded that the law was unnecessary, that it authorized a lawless and unprecedented expansion of presidential authority, and that Democrats in Congress cravenly accepted this White House initiative only for the basest political reasons. None of these widely broadcast conclusions are likely to be true.

You would think that Bobbitt might spend the remainder of the piece explaining why these things are “not likely to be true.” But he doesn’t. He spends a few paragraphs talking about how technology and the nature of the threats we face have changed (something no one contests) and then accuses critics of the bill of being ignorant partisans. There’s not so much as a passing reference to any of the actual provisions or language in the new statute.

This is, essentially, a credential op-ed. It’s a series of conclusory statements unaccompanied by evidence or analysis and then signed by someone with relevant credentials in the field. These kind of op-eds are completely useless. They don’t advance anyone’s understanding of anything, and I don’t understand why newspapers like the Times continue to publish them. Why not give this valuable opinion space to someone actually willing to analyze the law?

Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2007 at 10:12 am

Your new America

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From the Washington Post:

Not that they’re worried or anything. But the White House evidently leaves little to chance when it comes to protests within eyesight of the president. As in, it doesn’t want any.

A White House manual that came to light recently gives presidential advance staffers extensive instructions in the art of “deterring potential protestors” from President Bush’s public appearances around the country.

Among other things, any event must be open only to those with tickets tightly controlled by organizers. Those entering must be screened in case they are hiding secret signs. Any anti-Bush demonstrators who manage to get in anyway should be shouted down by “rally squads” stationed in strategic locations. And if that does not work, they should be thrown out.

But that does not mean the White House is against dissent — just so long as the president does not see it. In fact, the manual outlines a specific system for those who disagree with the president to voice their views. It directs the White House advance staff to ask local police “to designate a protest area where demonstrators can be placed, preferably not in the view of the event site or motorcade route.”

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Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2007 at 9:28 am

Fox attacks Iran

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Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2007 at 9:22 am

Megs, ready for trip

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Suitcase Megs

Megs has found that The Younger Daughter’s suitcase makes a terrific place for a nap. Her kitties think the same thing, so they will be interested when she returns home and they sniff another cat’s having made use of their suitcase.

Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2007 at 8:35 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Smooth and easy

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I used some of the Saint Charles Shave Bulgarian Rose shaving cream sample again today, and instead of putting a small amount on the brush, I smeared a good amount on my face, then brought up the lather with the Simpsons Harvard 3 Best. Really a good lather today—I just hadn’t used enough of the shaving cream last time.

The Edwin Jagger Georgian with an Astra Superior Platinum blade made quick, smooth, and easy work of the stubble, and the old standby Aqua Velva completed the shave.

I note that (a) Mr. Glo has another fan, and (b) Lee’s Razors now carries Mr. Glo.

Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2007 at 7:38 am

Posted in Shaving

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